Electrical Engineering Student Finds the Spark at Disney
A lifelong interest in electrical engineering led to a dream internship at the Happiest Place on Earth for undergraduate Kelsi Durkee.
Durkee spent her spring internship working on projects built to spread joy to people from around the world as she interned at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Durkee, an electrical engineering student at the University of Arkansas, interned for the electrical engineering professional program during the spring semester of 2020.
Durkee’s interest in electrical engineering began in her fourth-grade science class, when she was asked to build a house from a cardboard box with her classmates. She said they were thrilled by the project and decorated the whole house with barbie furniture, but the real excitement came when they wired the house and lit it up.
“I remember lighting up the house, and thinking it was so cool,” she said. “I also remember wondering if that was the kind of work my dad did, and well, I understood why he thought it was so cool.”
Durkee’s father is an electrical engineer who works for the aerospace company Boeing.
Growing up, Durkee wanted to become an astronaut. As she researched space travel, her interest in electrical engineering deepened as she learned about the diversity and flexibility the field brought to her fingertips.
“I feel like there’s so much you can do with electrical engineering,” she said. “You could do what I did at Disney, which was work on roller coasters, or you could work on rocket ships. The sky’s the limit.”
But Durkee didn’t know about the opportunities Disney could offer to students until her first semester at Auburn University, where she attended before transferring to the U of A. A Teaching Assistant in her freshman electrical engineering class had previously interned at Disney and inspired her to do the same.
“I grew up coming to Disney and thinking it was the most magical place on Earth,” she said.” When I found out that they had engineering roles, I was excited.”
The team she became a part of was known as “engineering the magic” and that’s exactly how she felt when being there, she said.
“Disney creates happiness,” she said.” Its sole purpose is to make happiness -its motive is just really special.”
During her time at the park, Durkee had the opportunity to work with several engineering professionals, who encouraged her daily, she said.
“For weeks we would work in the office and then we would go into the park and see it all come to life,” she said.
Durkee said the experience was amazing and exposed her to new challenges.
“Before this internship, I had never gone inside an electrical room, “she said.
One of Durkee’s tasks was to go into the field and find a panel, but before heading out she needed to see what exactly they were working with and what they were connecting their loads to.
“They would give me a database with a bunch of construction drawings,” she said.
She said it was like a puzzle because they needed to look at the database, construction layout, figure out the building they needed, find the electrical room and track the electrical panel to provide power for the project.
“Sometimes it would take hours to find all the bits and pieces of information we needed,” she said. “But, it was really exciting when we could finally put it all together and started on designs for the project.”
Durkee said one of her favorite parts of the whole experience was seeing patrons at the park interacting with the projects they worked on.
“It’s just really special,” she said.
Durkee plans to graduate in the summer of 2021.